Users cite HP printer problems after Snow Leopard upgrade

Missing drivers the main culprit, but other issues and brands make the gripe list, too

Mac users who upgraded to Snow Leopard on Friday began reporting problems with Hewlett-Packard (HP) printers within hours of Apple launching the upgrade, according to the company's support forums.

Some were infuriated that their long-reliable printer was not currently supported by Snow Leopard, while others rebelled when HP told them to buy a new printer.

Apple started selling Snow Leopard last Friday morning, and customers who had pre-ordered the Mac OS X 10.6 upgrade from the company's online store earlier in the week received them that day.

It didn't take long for printing problems to leap toward the top of the complaint chart.

"We're very disappointed with the way 10.6 has worked out in our office," said Ed Mcknew in a message that kicked off a long printer complaint thread Friday night. "We have an HP LaserJet connected to our Airport Extreme router, and none of our three office computers can find it on the network. We also have an HP DeskJet 4180 printer/scanner connected to our main computer (a USB connection) and that won't work either, because the HP printer software keeps crashing. Now we're faced with having no printers tomorrow."

Problems weren't limited to models from HP - other users reported issues with printers from Brother, Canon, Epson and Lexmark -- but most of the messages on Apple's support forums dealt with that firm's printers. A pair of well-trafficked threads targeting HP printers included more than 200 messages, and by 9 p.m. ET Sunday, had been viewed by more than 7,000 users.

"I hope somebody fixes it: HP or Apple -- I don't care who does it," said a user identified only as "jph808" on the same thread, referring to a balky HP LaserJet 1320n. "I, too, rely on huge amounts of printing for work...and at work, we have multiple HP models and HP models only. Can't wait to get there Monday to find that I can't print."

Many of the complaints were traced to the lack of Snow Leopard-compatible drivers, something someone who identified himself as an HP representative acknowledged in that thread and others. "I know it doesn't help those of you that don't have the driver in the OS yet, or whose printers are no longer supported," said "HP Mac Architect," who posted numerous times on several printer support threads. "We are sweating the details on the 50 or so models we still need to get done. And of the remaining ones, most will be available through an Apple Software Update at some point in the future."

HP published a list of its printers supported with Snow Leopard drivers, and instructions on how to get printing, scanning and faxing working on all-in-one devices.

Unfortunately, HP's list was filled with errors, admitted HP Mac Architect. In another thread, titled "HP Device FAQ" , on Apple's support site, the HP representative first claimed that drivers omitted from the Snow Leopard installation disk were available for download using the operating system's built-in Software Update service.

"I posted a bit too soon," HP Mac Architect confessed. "The list of 'additional' printer models I posted is NOT available yet (my bad). Expect to see them sometime in the future through Apple Software Update and through the download link." Shortly after that, HP Mac Architect posted a truncated list of printers for which drivers are in development.

Apple published a list of Snow Leopard-supported printers on its Web site -- from HP and several other manufacturers -- and HP Mac Architect steered users to that as an official list.

To users whose HP printers were on the Apple list, but weren't working, HP Mac Architect and others suggested several recommendations, including connecting the printer directly to the Mac via USB (rather than relying on a network or wireless connection), uninstalling the HP-provided software that was used with Leopard, or deleting the print queue to regain scanning.

Even so, the missing driver brouhaha left a bad taste in many users' mouths. "I do appreciate the help and inputs from HP Mac Architect here in the forum, but the behavior of Apple or HP is not acceptable," said Marcus Gantner . "The printers...particularly the 900-series, are very reliable printers for office/professional use." The model Gantner referred to was one without a Snow Leopard driver.

"I remember having to junk a fully-functional HP all-in-one printer when moving from [Mac OS X] 10.4.9 to 10.4.10 (or there abouts)," said someone nicknamed "Michel the drycleaner" on the support forum. "This time, I looked here and found this thread. It's going to take a long time before I buy Snow Leopard!"

On an HP forum , one user asking about his DeskJet 990 posted a reply received from an HP technical support representative. "A small set of HP Inkjet printers beyond 5 years old are not supported with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard," HP said. "If you are using the Mac OS X 10.6 operating system on your computer, please consider upgrading to a newer HP product that is supported on Mac OS X 10.6."

The last prompted William Kucharski to urge others to lodge complaints with HP. "If the HP driver doesn't work for you, contact HP and complain," Kucharski wrote on an Apple forum. "If your printer is no longer supported, contact HP and complain. It's HP that decided to drop support for many of their printers."

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Gregg Keizer

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